The issue of immigration has continued to dominate the headlines here in Arizona and across the United States. However, immigration debate and reform is not just a regional issue, but is a relevant topic across the world. As people move across borders escaping violence, and seeking better economic opportunities, anti-immigration advocates and politicians continue to sound the anti-immigrant alarm.
France has long had minor political representation from right-wing anti-immigration parties. Greece and Sweden have also seen a recent rise in anti-immigration politics. Now even the United Kingdom is witnessing the anti-immigrant wave sweeping across Europe.
In France, the National Front gained 25 percent of the vote, its largest share in its 40 year history, running on an anti-immigration platform. The National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, has pledged to cut immigration, and reduce the influence of Islam. French President Hollande's party earned only 13 percent of the vote.
In Greece, the extreme-right Golden Dawn party has taken about 9 percent of the vote. Denmark has seen an increase in representation from the anti-Islam Danish People's Party. The right-wing Swedish Democrats party have reached nearly 10 percent. And in a historic shift, the populist U.K Independence Party (UKIP) gained over 27 percent of the vote.
Many see the rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric as a response to tightening economic conditions at home. In reaction, the right is rising up against the political elite, speaking out against foreigners, welfare recipients, and the government. As a result, the politicians in power often shift to accommodate the outspoken voices from the right.
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated he would respond to British voters' concerns about immigration. Since the recent increase in the UKIP, Cameron is taking a stronger stand on curbing immigration within the European Union, and is reviewing the EU's “freedom of movement” principle.
As a result, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Cameron that he risked upsetting allies and losing international influence if he continued to pursue the anti-immigration reforms, where were designed to mollify British voters. If Prime Minister Cameron cannot persuade voters that his party is responding to their concerns over immigration, the growing support for the UKIP could threaten his chances to remain in power after next year's vote.
While the rise in right-wing populist parties come in reaction to downturning economies, a recent Forbes article has argued why the anti-immigration sentiment is bad for the economy. According to the UK Treasury's Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), immigration tends to produce a more beneficial picture for the nation, because, “they're more likely to be working age, they're more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to have relatively large sums of money spend on them for education, for long-term care, for health care, [and] for pension expenditure.”
Other have argued that the immigration policies are making it hard for talented and skilled people to get into the country, which has also been a topic of debate here in the US. Other arguments for the UK include the misperception of voters, many of whom believe that the government spends more money on Job Seekers' Allowance than pensions, when in reality, pensions cost the government 15 times that of the JSA.
While the rise in anti-immigration rhetoric continues to sweep across Europe in these tough economic times, many similarities can be drawn from the US experience. Here, the immigration debate continues to divide the country, and with an upcoming election, we may see the effects of the divide in a change in the balance of power in congress.